The Materials Book

184 Beyond Circularity Marilyne Andersen, Guillaume Habert Monitoring Material Flows and Their Regenerative Values In a world where data is ubiquitous, it might seem easy to monitor material and energy flows through urban systems. But, to quote the American environmentalist Donella Meadows, “we measure what we care about, and we care about what we measure.” 1 Policymakers and society as a whole rarely acknowledge resource, energy, or water scarcity. More often than not, they are not properly measured, or only partially so, even though a misleading indicator can be as detrimental as no measure at all: both can steer us in the wrong direction. There is no doubt that we urgently need to move toward a circular economy. In his book, Serge Salat argues that we should first think about efficiency on an urban scale, then move to a building- by-building approach to understand how people behave within the improved environment. This process can guide us away from the monofunctional urban model and help foster mixed-use and adaptability. On the other hand, Heba Allah Essam E. Khalil suggests we consider the city as a system, with inputs, outputs, and functions, and focus on monitoring resource flows. In urban contexts such as Cairo, this will be the only way to properly evaluate official (“formal”) resource data against the actual (“informal”) ones. That would allow us to better map flows and build on existing skills. One of the most pressing challenges regarding data monitoring is to create